[T]he first edition of Delhi International Film Festival, organized from September 19-25, 2011 by Taj Enlighten Film Society along with three major colleges of the Delhi University as Venue Partners, consisted of a 34 films line-up that played over a period of 7 days. Films from all over the world, from different eras and by some of the most acclaimed directors of cinema played at IP College for Women, Kirori Mal College and Miranda House.
The festival, that opened with documentarist Rajesh Jala’s fantastically effective film Children of the Pyre, on 19th September 2011, divided the films playing at the festival into five sections : Contemporary World Cinema, Classical Cinema, Country Focus : Germany, a Retrospective of Akira Kurosawa Films and Special Selections.
The announced intention of the inaugural edition of the festival in not wanting to organize the festival in an auditorium elsewhere and instead, in college auditoria, is to bring these films directly to the audiences, that the organizers Taj Enlighten Film Society believe, should be watching them: college students.
The screening of the festival was followed by an almost hour-long discussion on the film with the director, Mr. Jala, himself addressing the various questions evoked by the film among members of the audience present at the venue. Some of the other personalities present at the event included Mr. Aditya Bhattacharya, director of Raakh, Mr. Vinay Shanker, professor of Film Studies, Mr. Gurpal Singh, television personality and Mr. Rajkumar, a member of the Central Board of Film Certification.
Mr. Bhattacharya attended the festival to introduce a new version of his soon to be re-released film from 23 years ago, the Aamir Khan – Pankaj Kapoor starrer, Raakh. The film is playing in various theatres on the arthouse circuit in USA and Europe. The screening of the film was followed by an evaluation of the film itself and its role in a social-scape that has largely changed since the original year of the film’s production. This discussion took place at IP College for Women, which was the primary venue of the festival, and also hosted a widely anticipated marathon screening of the entire Godfather trilogy restored by legendary director Francis Ford Coppola himself.
Another venue of the festival, a college with a vast cultural legacy and a thriving film society, Kirori Mal College hosted a seminar on a very relevant issue: Censorship in Indian Cinema. Representatives from Taj Enlighten Film Society announced that the aim of the seminar was not to take a side, or choose an either-on stance, but to evaluate the issue in all its dimensions and complexities. To achieve this, speakers representing all sides of the issue – the filmmaker, a member from the Certification Board, and a member of the audience – were invited as participants
“I haven’t personally faced censorship, but it is a very worrying trend for me if someone else dictates what I watch and what I don’t”, said Mr. Bhattacharya, while speaking on behalf of the film fraternity. Mr. Rajkumar, Regional Officer, CBFC New Delhi, in response, evoked a Supreme Court judgment from 1989 to explain the set of guidelines that members of the CBFC adhere to, while providing members of the audience with instances from his personal experience as a CBFC officer to explain why they do what they do. The addresses by the speakers were followed by a lively set of questions by the audience at the venue.
The third venue, Miranda House, was the host to the festival’s tribute to late director and poet of the streets of New York, Sidney Lumet – a screening of his debut ’12 Angry Men’ marked the end of the festival’s set of screenings at the college. The college also hosted screenings of two major Kurosawa films as a part of the master director’s retrospective – Yojimbo and Rashomon.
While some screenings, especially of silent films did not fill auditoria expectedly, the festival gathered a lot of support from the students of the University as well as other colleges, some of who came from across the town to watch the films playing – as a result, a number of screenings at the festival numbered a very healthy turnout to the tune of a hundred or two, a very encouraging sign for a festival that played films that are not regularly watched by college students in Delhi.
“The idea of the inaugural edition of the festival was to garner support and create a small festival that we ourselves and our peers can respect. The next edition will have more collaborators and will hopefully, be better”, said the founder-Chairman of Taj Enlighten Film Society, Pranav Ashar.